The Gamification of the Rideshare Driver Experience

Have you ever noticed the alerts, the pop ups, the colorful screens Uber and Lyft use to encourage drivers to get on the road? Have you ever thought how those pop ups and enticing screens affect our brains? Senior RSG contributor Jay Cradeur discusses how rideshare driving is a gamified experience – designed to get us out, driving and working longer.

It is Monday, September 24, 2018.  I have just worked 12 days in a row.  I finished the last week off strong, working nearly 50 hours and earning just over $2,200.

I decided on Friday that I would push it hard on Saturday and Sunday to close the week, and then take Monday off (today) to write some blog posts for The Rideshare Guy.  I am sitting in my favorite Starbucks.  I had written my first two posts, and then I took a look at my trusty iPhone.  Here is what I saw:

I kid you not.  When I saw this screen, I thought to myself: “I better get out there.  I am missing out!”  Then I remembered my goals, and the reason I am sitting here in Starbucks, tapping on my keyboard, rather than driving for Lyft or Uber today.

Definition of Gamification

But the experience of my heart racing, my enthusiasm growing, and my fear of loss expanding, all lead me to address the topic of gamification which we drivers all experience.  We can use it to support us (we respond to it), or we can allow it to distract us (we react to it).  If you are not familiar with the term, let’s break it down:

I feel this definition captures our situation very well.  Both Uber and Lyft make the driving experience as much of a game as possible.  They want it to be fun and enticing so that we want to do it, and will do it, as much as possible.

Examples of How Rideshare Driving is Gamified

We don’t have to look far to see a plethora of examples of how Uber and Lyft gamify our driving experience.  Here is the home screen from this morning:

There are a few things here.  Notice the Prime Time levels stated at the top of the screen: 25 – 200%.  It is human nature to get excited about the possibility of turning a $20 ride into a $60 ride.  You get triple the amount of pay for the same amount of work!

Then we see a map awash in bright pink.  This again pulls on our desire to maximize our revenue for less work.   I think to myself: “My Gosh, the whole city is on fire!”

Now here is what my logical mind, which must be called into this situation, knows for a fact.  Today is the first day of San Francisco’s largest convention called Dreamforce.  It is Salesforce’s big event.  Approximately 200,000 people will descend upon our little city by the bay.

What we are looking at here are thousands of people requesting rides at the same time so they can get to the event, which is being held downtown at the Moscone Center.  So while the Prime Time rates are high, the traffic will commensurately be horrible.  While I may get lucky and pick someone up at 200%, there is a high probability that I will have to endure three times the amount of drive time to get the passenger to the event due to extreme traffic.   Add to that the unpleasant stress I feel sitting in traffic, and it does not add up to an ideal situation.

The next thing to notice is the Update pop-up at the bottom half of the screen.  It serves to tease me with immediate payouts of my Weekly Ride Challenge Bonus.   This is a new feature now offered by Lyft, modeled after Uber’s Quest. Instead of waiting until Wednesday of next week for my bonus, I can now earn my bonus and cash out immediately.  The bonus is now broken down to three parts:

This means I can get much more immediate gratification for my work.  I can work hard for three days and earn a bonus of $143 and cash it out instantaneously.  Then I can work two days and earn another bonus.  And then I can work one more day and earn an even bigger bonus of $150.  The more Uber and Lyft can gamify the system with points of instant gratification, the more our human nature to acquire will be activated and the harder we will work to achieve our goals.

On this same screen, we can see yet another form of gamification.  Notice where it says “$2,000 to reach your goal.”  Lyft now lets you set your weekly earnings goal, and every time you check on your earnings, the app will show you your progress toward that goal.

It all reminds me of the old pinball games I use to play when I was a kid and how much I enjoyed watching the score go up.  This is what it looks like when you hit your goal:

Uber, of course, does the same thing.  Take a look at their home screen from this morning:

Uber also emphasizes their Surge levels, ranging from 1.2X to 2.5X.  In addition, Uber offers a Consecutive Ride bonus, which you can see in blue.  Both Uber and Lyft offer very seductive home screens.  They are damned tempting.  But I know better.  Yet I am still torn.

The brilliant gamification of the home screens has me wanting to jump in my car and drive.  But I did not.  Instead I stuck to my original plan and continued to write my blog posts.  Let’s take a final look at the home screen now, 90 minutes later.

Now it is dead out there.  We all know what happened.  Many drivers saw the home screen at 8AM and they jumped in their cars to drive.  Some drivers who were near San Francisco drove into the city to take advantage of the higher rates.  Then the demand died because the event started.  Now there is a glut of drivers and demand is minimal.  Had I gone out to drive, I would have made a little bit of money, but I would now be frustrated because I changed my plans for not much gain.

Understanding It’s In Their Interest to Make Driving a Game

It is important to know and understand all the ways Uber and Lyft are playing with us, the drivers. By gamifying the system, they are making it very attractive to drive and earn and get paid.  All of that is actually quite wonderful.  The only challenge is to know when to take advantage of what Uber and Lyft are offering and when to pass.  Our goal is not to work 24/7.  Our goal is to optimize our time and earn the highest dollar per hour figure possible.  Enjoy the games!  Be safe out there.

Drivers, have you noticed how rideshare driving is gamified? Do you agree or disagree with Jay?

-Jay @ RSG